32 VERDICT ON INDIA
The Brahmins might be said to play the same role in India's
political life as the old Etonians in Britain. The main difference
is that they have no organized labour to keep them in order. By
and large, they are masters of all they survey—except when they
turn round and take a look at the Muslims.1
The three other castes are the Kshatriyas or warriors, the
Vaisyas or traders—(Gandhi is a Vaisya)—and the Sudras, or
cultivators and menials.
Way off in the outer darkness, sunk deep in the mind, are the
castcless ones, the untouchables, nearly CO million of them.
This classification is drastically simplified. There are actually
2500 castes, all with their taboos, their social restrictions, and
their almost incredible ing2nuity in complicating the most simple
process of life.
These castes split the Hindu fabric into a sort of crazy quilt,
lacking all homogeneity, held together only by fear—fear of each
other, fear of the Maslims, fear of British law. Over and over
again it must be emphasized that these castes are a matter of
modern, not ancient history.
A homely little instance may sometimes make a point more
vivid than any amount of statistics ; here is one. Not long ago I
spilt a bottle of iodine on the floor of a fiat where I was staying.
I had nothing to wipe it up with, and I called for a servant to ask
him if he would kindly get a rag and remove the stain. There
were five servants in the flat and they had nothing to do; it
seemed a reasonable request. It was not granted. One after
another they came in, regarded the stain, and departed, with
black looks. Losing my patience, I went to the kitchen, found a
rag, and wiped the thing up myself. ' What is the matter with you
all ?' I demanded, when I handed back the rag. They explained
that Dido, the sweeper, the untouchable, was out having his
lunch, and only he could wipe up the stain. They would be
degraded if they did it themselves, and he—Dido—would lose
respect for them if he heard about it.
1 The Brahmins, in spite of their lofty position, have not attracted much love to
themselves in the long history of India. And ancient saying, still current, is 'if you
meet a snake and a Brahmin, kill the Brahmin.1 Perhaps this is due to the preposter-
ous nature of their claims. For example, Mannt maker of laws ruled that to accuse
% Brahmin of a crime was sinful even if the Brahmin was guilty.